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THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE

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Myths about Overseas Voting

There are a number of common misconceptions about overseas voting, which can prevent Americans abroad from exercising their right to vote. Democrats Abroad want to dispel these myths.
Published on August 28, 2020

Ballot papers cartoon

Myth #1: “I can’t vote. I don’t have a US address anymore.”

WRONG. Regardless how long you have lived outside the country, you always retain the right to vote in US Federal elections. Your legal voting address is the last place you resided prior to departing the US. (If you have never lived in the US, many states will allow you to vote using the legal voting address of one of your American parents. Also, depending on state law, it could be that studying or summering in the US is enough to establish residence. Check with local authorities.)

Myth #2: “I don’t need to register. I did it last time.”

WRONG. Voters living abroad should send in a ballot request every election year by going to VoteFromAbroad.org . You can even do this by email, fax and post. Yes, there are a few states which permit “permanent absentee” registration. But, don’t forget that our votes are administered by 3,000 different local authorities across the country, each with its own understanding of the law. Better safe than sorry – send a new ballot request each election year!

Myth #3: “They don’t even count overseas ballots.”

WRONG. Absolutely 100% false. By law, every properly executed absentee ballot must be counted before a final vote count can be certified. However, if the number of outstanding ballots – overseas or otherwise – is smaller than the difference between two candidates, a winner may be called before every last vote has been tallied. Nonetheless, all outstanding ballots are counted before the election result can be certified.

Myth #4: “One vote can’t make a difference.”

WRONG. Just look at recent election results. In the 2018 US elections 1 in 25 races were decided by less than a 1% vote margin. That year Americans abroad were the winning margin in races in Utah, New Jersey and California and the Democrat’s only state-wide win in Florida.

Myth #5: “If I vote, the IRS will hassle me.”

WRONG. Voting in US Federal elections does not affect the determination of tax liability or tax residence. You will not hear from the IRS because you voted in a Federal election, i.e. President, Senate, or House of Representatives. (Note: Voting in state and local elections can potentially affect state and local tax status. We recommend that you seek expert advice before voting in state or local elections.)

Myth #6: “Voting from abroad is so complicated.”

WRONG. This used to be true! Now, US citizens can complete the process of registering and requesting an absentee ballot – and spread the word to friends and colleagues! – in just 5 minutes flat at www.VoteFromAbroad.org

You can follow Democrats Abroad on social media @demsabroaduk

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